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Public is giving CPW candidates a free ride on issues

Published on Saturday, July 21, 2012

By Chip Blomgren

It's hot outside. We all have the same politics when it comes to the heat; we want to stay cool. If you visited Weather.com's homepage on July 19, its top headline read: “Severe Drought Reaches 21st-Century High.” South Carolina and the nation continue to set all-time temperature records and suffer a lack of rainfall. As a result, our crops are flagging and we are getting saddled with $500 a month electric bills. Tack the economic slump and monetary inflation issues onto the heat and that is a recipe for many people having to make hard choices between their utility payments and their groceries the rest of this year. However, on July 24, our fair citizenry of Greer get to elect a new Commissioner of Public Works in a municipal election. This is your chance to directly impact how your power and water will be managed by raising your concerns to the two candidates, Perry Williams and Jerry Balding, as they compete for your votes.

Unfortunately, there has been a great lack of interest in the CPW race. We haven't put our thinking caps on and asked all the vital questions that we should have. Throughout the south this summer, there have been devastating thunderstorms knocking out power and leaving millions of people without electricity to combat 100 degree weather. Many people have been forced from their homes to take up residence in costly hotel rooms for almost a week at a time as utility companies fight to restore power in their areas. We ought to be asking Mr. Williams and Mr. Balding what is being done to gird Greer's utilities against such disastrous storms. Where is our electric grid vulnerable and how do they propose to fortify it?

Despite the tremendous storms we've been having lately, the Greenville County Watershed continues to experience a decade long drought. If you haven't driven up to the watershed just above the Camp Old Indian Boy Scout reservation, you should put it on your to-do list. See for yourself how the large deficit of water is exposing tree trunks and clay lake bed. We should be asking what Greer's role has been in the slow draining of Lake Robinson. How has the Commission of Public Works been responding to the constant drought in the management of our city's water? Furthermore, what are the candidates' plans to ensure we continue to have clean water to bathe in and drink in the future as our water becomes more scarce.

Every politician knows the old snowclone, 'It's the economy stupid,' and both candidates have promised to be fiscally responsible while keeping costs down. That said, it's our job as constituents to make honest men of our candidates by making them flesh out their platforms and promises into concrete business plans. One of Mr. Balding's main positions in combating rising costs is to undertake 'Cost of Service' studies. However, reviews and studies cost time and money. How much money would these studies take and how would that cost be passed on to the consumer? How expansive would they be in scope? How many years would they take to complete?

Alternatively, Mr. Williams proposes to put smart meters and remote censors in our homes to combat rising electric prices. Mr. Balding has noted that these devices are costly and implied they are not consumer friendly, but he failed to elaborate further. How much will these devices cost and how would they be distributed?What if we do not want smart meters in our homes? Will there be a premium in our bills because we choose not to use such devices? You may laugh at the notion of a premium, but in the age of the 'progressive tax' how will you know unless you've asked?

Speaking of taxes, Obama-Care, regardless of what you feel about it, is now a reality. CPW is a private company that employs a significant workforce and this new law means extra expenses for the cost of doing business. Inevitably, that cost is passed onto the consumer. Yet neither of the candidates have discussed how CPW will rise to meet the challenges imposed on companies by this new 'tax.' Is there a healthcare plan already in place for workers at CPW and does it meet the new regulations? How will the costs of this new tax translate onto the consumer? Mr. Balding's agenda does include adding an “employee wellness program.” We should want to know more details of what he has in mind.

Even though the Greer Commission of Public Works has such a direct impact on our every day lives, the general public has not risen to fulfill our civic duty by asking hard questions. It's never too late, though, and if you agree with me that there have been critical issues overlooked in the campaigns up to this point, contact Mr. Balding at jerrybalding.com and Mr. Williams at perryforcpw.com. Ask them your questions and state your concerns before the polls close on the 24th. I hear the weather is a great conversation starter.

Chip Blomgren lives in Greer and has worked with Republican and Democratic election campaigns in Arizona. The opinion written by Mr. Blomgren does not represent the political views of GreerToday.com.

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